Australia’s favourite fish: Results
The people of Australia have spoken. Which of our native fish species will be crowned the greatest of all?
Last month, we received nearly 1,200 votes as we sought to crown Australia’s favourite fish. The contest was hard fought, with voters championing their species on social media and even distributing ‘How to vote’ cards.
It was heartening to receive such a strong response to our national survey. Australia hosts a remarkable diversity of native fish species, often hidden from plain view unless you’re a scientist, fisher or diver. Each of these fish deserves the recognition we would typically bestow upon a koala or magpie, and to be celebrated and conserved well into the future.
But they can’t all be winners, of course: Australia’s top 10 favourite fish are listed below.
9. Blue groper
Achoerodus viridis [41 votes; tied]
New South Wales’ marine emblem is a curious, charismatic wrasse renowned for approaching and interacting with divers as they enter the water.
9. PORT JACKSON SHARK
Heterodontus portusjacksoni [41 votes; tied]
These small, friendly sharks have been described as the “puppy dogs of the ocean”. Some individuals undertake annual migrations of up to 600km along Australia’s eastern coast.
8. Manta ray
Mobula alfredi [43 votes]
Although the smaller of the two manta ray species, this fish is no slouch in the size department — boasting a disc width of up to 5 metres.
7. Whale shark
Rhincodon typus [50 votes]
The ocean's largest fish is a slow-moving filter-feeder, providing divers at Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, with some of their most memorable close encounters.
6. Largetooth sawfish
Pristis pristis [55 votes]
Northern Australia is one of the few remaining strongholds for the largetooth sawfish, which is rapidly disappearing across its global range and is considered critically endangered.
5. Great white shark
Carcharodon carcharias [62 votes]
A powerful marine predator that feeds largely on seals, penguins, fish and seabirds. Although a highly migratory fish, Australia’s eastern and western populations remain quite distinct.
4. Hoodwinker sunfish
Mola tecta [66 votes]
This new species, which can weigh several hundred kilograms, was hiding in plain sight for over a century, before it was formally described last year by PhD student Marianne Nyegaard.
3. Weedy seadragon
Phyllopteryx taeniolatus [87 votes]
Victoria’s marine emblem is a carnivore, sucking up small crustaceans and other invertebrates through its tubular snout.
2. Murray cod
Maccullochella peelii [104 votes]
Australia’s largest freshwater bony fish. Once widespread through the Murray-Darling River system, the Murray cod is now rare in many places and large individuals are seldom caught.
1. Leafy seadragon
Phycodurus eques [132 votes]
Elaborate leaf-like protrusions help this fish camouflage itself amongst the kelp and seagrass. The leafy seadragon has been South Australia’s marine emblem since 2001.
Every fish on our 51 species shortlist was at least somebody’s favourite, with one exception: The orange roughy, a distinctive deep-sea fish with important economic value, received zero votes, although we love it, anyway.
11 Australian lungfish [36 votes]
12 Spotted handfish 
13 Desert goby 
14 Barramundi 
15 Red-finned blue-eye 
16 Tasselled wobbegong 
― Tiger shark 
18 Dusky flathead 
― Mahi mahi 
20 Common coral trout 
21 Southern bluefin tuna 
22 Snapper 
― Baldchin groper 
― Eastern blue devil fish 
25 Purple spotted gudgeon 
26 Macquarie perch 
― Blind cave eel 
― Australian bass 
29 King George whiting 
― Yellowtail kingfish 
31 Blue tang 
― Trout galaxias 
― Northern river shark 
― White's seahorse 
35 Eastern clown anemonefish 
― Sevenspot archerfish 
― Freshwater moray 
― Black bream 
39 Gummy shark 
40 Sooty grunter 
― Barrier reef anemonefish 
42 Crimsonspotted rainbowfish 
― Black cod 
― Empire gudgeon 
― Queensland groper 
― Golden perch 
― Running River rainbowfish 
― Banded rainbowfish 
49 Albacore 
― Southern shortfin eel 
51 Orange roughy 
No shortlist could ever quite capture the diversity of Australia’s fish, so it’s no surprise we received many complaints about missing favourites. To satisfy the nation’s fish lovers, we allowed readers to submit write-in candidates, which provided votes for an additional 57 species. The following fish received multiple votes:
1 Spiny chromis (Acanthochromis polyacanthus) [27 votes; equivalent to 14th place]
2 Black marlin (Istiompax indica) [7 votes]
3 River blackfish (Gadopsis marmoratus) 
4 Chevron butterflyfish (Chaetodon trifascialis) 
5 Mangrove jack (Lutjanus argentimaculatus) 
6 Eastern Australian salmon (Arripis trutta) 
― Ocean sunfish (Mola mola) 
― Jungle perch (Kuhlia rupestris) 
― West Australian dhufish (Glaucosoma hebraicum) 
― Blue marlin (Makaira nigricans) 
The Australia’s Favourite Fish poll was supported by the Australian Society for Fish Biology, and managed by Andrew Katsis. Species descriptions for our shortlist were contributed by Andrew Katsis, Lachlan Fetterplace, David Harasti, Katherine Cure, Brendan Ebner and David Boseto. We are also indebted to Museum Victoria’s Fishes of Australia database, curated by Dianne Bray, for additional species information.